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Culture

Rapid response will be key to French anti-fake news law

media French minister for culture, Françoise Nyssen. JACQUES DEMARTHON / AFP

Rapid response is going to be the French government’s answer to fake news in the media. The French Minister of Culture Françoise Nyssen said that a judicial procedure would be established to stop the dissemination of fake news, as she introduced the anti-fake news law.

“The measures that we will be working on from now until March are to create a law about ‘confidence in information’ that will permit us to act very quickly when a fake news story goes viral, particularly during an election period,” said Nyssen in an interview with Journal du Dimanche on February 4.

“This new law will establish new responsibilities for the different media platforms, which will have to cooperate with the state and be transparent about their sponsored content. A judicial procedure will be put in place to allow rapid blocking of the dissemination of fake news once it has become manifest.”

French President Emmanuel Macron first proposed a law to counter fake news in his 2018 New Year’s speech to the press. This was seen as a veiled reference to Moscow-backed RT and Sputnik.

RT and Sputnik both have French-language websites and, during a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in May, Macron accused them of publishing "defamatory untruths" and "deceitful propaganda".

RT launched in France

Since then, RT - formerly known as Russia Today - has launched a French-language TV channel, putting regulators on their guard.

Macron saw thousands of internal documents leaked online while running for president, which he blasted as an attempt at "democratic destabilisation like that already seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign".

France's government will not be the first to attempt to fight fake news through the law.

In Germany, recent legislation puts social networks at risk of fines of up to €50 million if they do not remove fake news and hateful posts promptly.

Speaking on Sunday, Nyssen confirmed that there will be strong sanctions if there is an unwillingness to comply with the obligations of cooperation and transparency imposed by the law. And she wanted to reassure that she respects the freedom of the press.

“There is no freedom of the press, though, when there is bad money chasing good, that’s to say when fake news chases true information.”

“This new text will protect against the risk of private censorship if the platforms act according to the correct rules. In addition, we will act strongly in the area of media education,” she said without giving specific details.

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